Second Israeli minister calls for return of settlers to Gaza

AFP , Monday 1 Jan 2024

An Israeli minister on Monday called for the return of settlers to Gaza and said Palestinians should be encouraged to leave, a day after similar remarks by another far-right politician.

Ben Gvir
Israeli National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir attends the weekly cabinet meeting at the Kirya military base in Tel Aviv, Israel Sunday, Dec. 31, 2023. AP


"We must promote a solution to encourage the emigration of Gaza's residents," Israel's firebrand National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir said as the civilian death toll from Israel's war on Gaza continues to mount.

Israel unilaterally withdrew the last of its troops and settlers in 2005, ending a presence inside Gaza that began in 1967 but maintaining near complete control over the territory's borders.

The government under Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has not officially suggested it has any plans to evict Gazans or to send Jewish settlers back to the territory since the current war broke out on October 7.

But Ben Gvir argued that the departure of Palestinians and re-establishment of Israeli settlements "is a correct, just, moral and humane solution".

"This is an opportunity to develop a project to encourage Gaza's residents to emigrate to countries around the world," he told a meeting of his ultranationalist Otzma Yehudit, or "Jewish Power", party.

Ben Gvir's comment came the day after far-right Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich also called for the return of settlers to Gaza, equally saying Israel should "encourage" the territory's approximately 2.4 million Palestinians to leave.

Smotrich said that for Israel to "control the territory militarily for a long time, we need a civilian presence".

Both Ben Gvir and Smotrich live in settlements in the occupied West Bank, considered illegal under international law.

Hamas on Sunday condemned Smotrich's comments as a "vile mockery and a war crime" and added that Gazans "will stand firm and steadfast in the face of all attempts to displace them from their land and homes".

Israel's ongoing war has killed at least 21,978 people in Gaza, mostly women and children, according to the Palestinian health ministry.

As Israel presses its invasion, 85 percent of people in the besieged Gaza Strip have been internally displaced and 40 percent are "at risk of famine" under Israeli attacks, according to the United Nations.

*This story was edited by Ahram Online

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